Monthly Archives: May 1992

The Waterdance

Don’t let the subjectthe interactions of three men (Eric Stoltz, Wesley Snipes, and William Forsythe) at a physical rehabilitation centerscare you away from one of the most intelligent, sensitive, serious, subtle, and gripping American movies of 1992. Directed by Neal Jimenez and Michael Steinberg from an excellent script by Jimenez (who wrote River’s Edge and cowrote For the Boys), this eschews the usual sentimental tactics for an honest look at what paraplegics have to deal with practically, sexually, and emotionally. Stoltz plays a novelist with a devoted girlfriend (Helen Hunt) married to someone else; Snipes is a hard-living teller of tales with a disintegrating marriage; Forsythe is a racist biker. All three actors are uncommonly good at keeping their characters unpredictable and lifelike. Elizabeth Pe… Read more »

Voyager

An adaptation by director Volker Schlondorff and American novelist Rudy Wurlitzer (Nog, Slow Fade) of Max Frisch’s existential Swiss novel Homo Faber, about a middle-aged engineer (Sam Shepard) in the 1950s who finds himself having an affair with a young woman (Julie Delpy) who may or may not be his daughter; the settings include Latin America, Switzerland, Greece, France, and Italy. It could have used a lot more of Wurlitzer’s humor (he’s very good on airline-hostess protocol) and a lot less of Shepard’s Marlboro Man inexpressiveness, which is indulged at great length and to relatively little purpose. Delpy (Europa Europa) is attractive but not especially resourceful in holding up her end of the screen; Barbara Sukowa does a better job in the smaller part of her mother. With Dieter Kirchlechner and Traci Lind (1991). (JR)… Read more »

Untamed Youth

Mamie Van Doren (the girl built like a platinum powerhouse, said the ads) sings no less than four songs and Eddie Cochran and the Hollywood Rock ‘n’ Rollers do another in this 1957 film about life on a juvenile prison work farm, where Van Doren and her sister (Lori Nelson) are sent after they’re picked up for hitchhiking. John Russell and Lurene Tuttle play the sinister villains who run the farm; Howard W. Koch directed.… Read more »

A Tale Of The Wind

This poetic masterpiece (1988) is the crowning work of Joris Ivens, the great Dutch documentarian and leftist, who made it in collaboration with his companion, Marceline Loridan, shortly before his death at age 90. (In fact there’s reason to believe the film was mainly written by Loridan, though this makes it no less Ivens’s own testament.) Neither a documentary nor a fantasy but a sublime fusion of the two, it deals in multiple ways with the wind, with Ivens’s asthma, with China, with the 20th century (and, more implicitly, the 19th and the 21st), with magic, and with the cinema. Ivens was born only two years after Georges Melies screened his first work, and this imaginative, freewheeling, and often comic film reflects on that fact, and on the near century of intertwining film, political, and personal history that made up Ivens’s life. For all its cosmic dimensions, it’s funny and lighthearted rather than pretentious and ponderous; it may even renew your faith in life on this planet. In French with subtitles. 78 min. (JR)… Read more »

Proof

Jocelyn Moorhouse’s sensitive and well-acted chamber drama focuses on a young man, blind since birth, who’s obsessed with taking photographs. Cared for by a frustrated young housekeeper who both loves and despises him, he strikes up a friendship with another young man, and the story turns into a subtly nuanced romantic triangle and power struggle that gains resonance as we learn more about the hero’s childhood. Thematically (if not stylistically) suggestive at times of Peeping Tom, this impressive first feature from Australia shows a remarkable amount of assurance in writing as well as direction, clearly marking Moorhouse as someone to watch. With Hugo Weaving, Genevieve Picot, and Russell Crowe (1991, 86 min.). (JR)… Read more »

Poison Ivy

Drew Barrymore stars in a melodrama that borders on high-class kiddie porn, playing an orphan named Ivy who befriends an unhappy schoolmate (Sara Gilbert) and winds up moving into her troubled household, where she becomes indispensable to the ailing mother (Cheryl Ladd) and seduces the father (Tom Skerritt). Directed by Katt Shea Ruben from a script she wrote with producer Andy Ruben, this starts off with some spark and drive, in part because of the writing and playing of Gilbert’s character, but gradually sinks into cliche and contrivance as the familiar genre moves take over, dragging down the characters, plot, and style. (JR)… Read more »

One False Move

Three coke dealersone black (Michael Beach), one white (cowriter Billy Bob Thornton), and one with a racially mixed background (Cynda Williams)flee a deal that entails the slaughter of many innocents in South Central Los Angeles. They head for Star City, Arkansas, the woman’s hometown, where the local sheriff (Bill Paxton), working with two LA cops (Jim Metzler and Earl Billings), hopes to catch them. There’s plenty to be impressed by while watching this 1992 noirish thriller, cowritten by Tom Epperson and directed by Carl Franklin, but not a great deal of aftertaste. 105 min. (JR)… Read more »

Lunatics: A Love Story

A hallucinating recluse (Ted Raimi) in LA who doesn’t leave his apartment falls in love with an abandoned woman (Valley Girl’s Deborah Foreman) who thinks she brings bad luck in this independent feature made by a number of people who have worked on the films of Sam Raimi (Ted’s brother). Most of the effort here seems trained on tatty horror-movie foddermostly special effects for the hero’s obscurely connected hallucinations involving spiders and street rappersbut it’s the charm of the youthful leads that makes this intermittently watchable (1991). (JR)… Read more »

The Living Desert

One of the earliest of the Disney true-life adventures (1953), this won an Academy Award for best documentary, in spite (or because) of its celebrated use of square-dance music with footage of scorpions. James Algar directed. (JR)… Read more »

Lethal Weapon 3

More of the same, though a lot coarser than its immediate predecessor, and the characters and situations have now calcified to the point where they’re simply sitcom staples. LA cops Mel Gibson and Danny Glover are back and so is Joe Pesci as former federal witness Leo Getz, now a Beverly Hills entrepreneur. They and an internal affairs detective (Rene Russo) are after a crooked former cop (Stuart Wilson) who’s selling confiscated guns to street gangs. A hyped-up movie in love with its own cuteness, this shows gratuitous police violence with a relish that would’ve warmed the cockles of Daryl Gates’s heart; How to Have Fun in a Police State would not be an inappropriate subtitle. Once again, Richard Donner directed from a script by Jeffrey Boam, cowritten this time by Robert Mark Kamen. (JR)… Read more »

The Fourth Animation Celebration: The Movie

Twenty-seven shorts from Bulgaria, China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, the U.S., and the former Soviet Union. Apart from being an enjoyable selection, this affords an interesting glimpse of what people from other countries think about. Highlights include three very personal tributes to Tex Avery (by John Schnall, Paul de Nooijer, and Gavrilo Gnatovich), a hilarious political allegory from Bulgaria featuring tin cans, and winners of an MTV competition about world problems. (JR)… Read more »

Far And Away

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman star in old-fashioned hokum on a very high level. This Ron Howard blockbuster about Irish immigration to the U.S. in the 1890s is the sort of thing Hollywood used to do well and more often. Written by Bob Dolman and Howard and shot with Panavision super-70 camera equipment using 65-millimeter stock, this epic utopian fantasy about love overcoming class barriers (complete with a passing nod to It Happened One Night) is designed like a triptych, beginning in rural Ireland (where tenant farmer Cruise falls in with Kidman, the rebellious daughter of his wealthy landlord, when she decides to flee to the U.S.), continuing in Boston (where they share the same room, posing as brother and sister, and he triumphs for a while as a boxer), and concluding in the Oklahoma Territory (where they proceed separately to stake their claims). Never afraid of excess, Howard excels at giving imaginative density to the Boston locations and exploiting the chemistry between the two leads; he also shows a nice aptitude for storytelling. Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s mere overreaching and what’s nostalgia for Hollywood’s former grandiloquenceHoward certainly seems to love his fancy corkscrew crane shotsbut this remains perhaps the most enjoyable of his features.… Read more »

Falling From Grace

Rock performer and composer John Mellencamp directs and stars in a feature about his hometown, Seymour, Indiana, that was written by his longtime friend Larry McMurtry. Mellencamp plays a California-based country music singer who comes home with his wife (Mariel Hemingway) for his grandfather’s 80th birthday and becomes involved in the various problems of his family and his old friends; with Claude Akins, Kay Lenz, Dub Taylor, and Larry Crane. Curiously, although this film was well received by some critics in New York and elsewhere when it opened, it was unloaded locally without press screenings at second-run theaters; once again the message appears to be that Chicago doesn’t count in the wider scheme of things.… Read more »

Captive Wild Woman

A 61-minute Universal programmer from 1943, directed by Edward Dmytryk, in which John Carradine turns an orangutan into a beautiful woman (Acquanetta) who goes nuts because of unrequited love and kills a lot of men. This was popular enough to spawn two sequels, Jungle Woman and Jungle Captive; with Evelyn Ankers and Milburn Stone. (JR)… Read more »

Alien 3

Although there’s a lot of unpleasantness here to maintain the tradition of this SF thriller’s predecessors, one finds neither the high-tech effects of the first nor the quality direction of the second, and few of the thrills in either; just about all that music-video veteran David Fincher has to show for himself in his feature debut is clumsy elliptical cutting and alien-point-of-view shots. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is the only human survivor when her rocket ship crash-lands on a remote lice-ridden planet containing a religious order of maximum security male prisoners; a deadly extraterrestrial winds up on the planet, too, and menaces everybody in sight. It isn’t hard to figure out the rest, but I found it pretty boring. Written by David Giler, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson, and Vincent Ward; with Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Brian Glover, and Lance Henriksen (1992). (JR)… Read more »